Written by: Kruti Patel
I was dripping in sweat as I opened the doors to the ballroom on the 32nd floor of the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco. It was day one of training for my climb up Mount Kilimanjaro and I had just finished my first set, with 3 more sets to go. Out of fear that I would trip and fall if I were to take the stairs down, I had decided to take the elevator down and then start climbing the stairs up again.
The elevators were on the other side of the ballroom, so as I walked passed the room full of people dressed in cocktail dresses and tuxedos, saying I felt out of place is probably an understatement. The real kicker was that I only had to do it three more times. I had been staying at the Westin on a weekly basis for my project in SF. Every Monday I’d fly in from Phoenix, check-in to the Westin, then every Thursday I’d do the reverse, check-out of the Westin and fly back to Phoenix. By this point I knew the hotel staff well, so they were kind enough to let me climb the stairs and didn't stop me from traversing the ballroom, dripping in sweat.
I had decided to climb Kilimanjaro on a bit of whim, and by the time I had started my training, I literally only had 4 weeks before taking off to Africa. Day 1 of climbing the stairs at first wasn’t very painful, but it was rather boring. It was a dark stairwell and even though I was only afraid of tripping by taking the stairs down, there was still the possibility of tripping when taking the stairs up. So I had to learn to focus and not let my mind wander. Those stairs were metal, and if I fell, I certainly would have broken a bone in my face among other things.
I was about half-way thru when a sort of panic began to set in. Roughly 45 minutes had passed and my speed had definitely decreased. I was estimating another 60 minutes before I’d complete the final 2 sets. I was tired, it was dark and if I was struggling now, what was I going to do on the mountain, where the average time spent walking up hill was 8 hours a day. What was I going to do the night we summited, where we were expected to walk 8 hours thru the night and then another 8 hours for the decent. If I was struggling now, there was no way I could make enough progress to overcome the struggle in time for the climb...and so it went on like this.
By the time I reached the ballroom after the 3rd set, I was too busy contemplating how I’d get myself out of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to notice that the party was over and I’d be heading down the elevator with about 10 party goers. As I opened the door to the stairwell once I reached the ground floor, I had to pause and ask myself why I was attempting to complete my 4th and last set. After all I had just schemed up the email I was going to write when I got back to my hotel room letting my climbing partner know that I wasn’t going to be able to join him on the climb. And here is where I learned that we are forever in a struggle between the vindictive negative thoughts of our mind and the yearning to experience greatness of our souls.
A few nights prior, my mentor had said to me, “no one will think less of you for trying” and as I held the handle bar of the stairwell door, I had to consciously remind myself of his words to overcome the temptation to take the easy road out and give up on training and give up on climbing all together. I completed that 4th set, but this time the ballroom was quiet. I walked over to the windows and stared out at the beauty of the SF skyline, 32 floors high. I pretended that I was at Uhuru Peak and although the view would be quite different, the challenge would be very similar. I stood there for roughly 10 minutes and reprogrammed my brain. I was not going to give up, I was not going to worry about the end outcome, I was not going to fear pain and turbulence, those things were all apart of the game. I reminded myself of a quote by Dan Millman: “Every positive change--every jump to a higher level of energy and awareness--involves a rite of passage. Each time to ascend to a higher rung on the ladder of personal evolution, we must go through a period of discomfort, of initiation. I have never found an exception.”
And so I focused those next 4 weeks on training for the climb, making it very clear to myself that giving up was simply not an option. Traveling made it a bit difficult, but I made no excuses and executed on my plan one day at a time. I had done some research the week prior and learned that plyometric workouts were great at strengthening the muscles, so I incorporated the Plyometric workout from p-90x into my routine. I definitely felt a quick and big difference in my leg muscles and as the weeks progressed, so did my strength. The plan is below and by no means is a professionally designed or an indication that someone who follows this plan will make it to Uhuru Peak. Rather it’s a reminder that if you are given an opportunity to do something you really want in life, work towards it as if your life depended on it. Don’t make excuses and most importantly stay focused. The easiest thing to do is give up, the hardest thing to do is keep going. But as I have said in the past, if you can find a way to not let your mind falter, and find the power within to keep going, you will always make it to Uhuru Peak, one way or another.